Wondering what to do in Inverness without a car? My car-free guide to the best things to do in this Scottish Highlands city can help! 

I have visited Inverness without a car and found it accessible to get around. It’s a compact and walkable city so most of its main attractions can be explored on foot. 

For places on the city’s outskirts, there’s an extensive and easy-to-use bus network. I also managed to see some of the city’s neighbours, including Culloden Battlefield and Loch Ness. 

As for what to do, there’s plenty to keep you busy here. 

Some of my favourite highlights include stepping back in time to Neolithic civilization at the Clava Cairns, meeting bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth and browsing secondhand finds in Scotland’s most beautiful bookshop. 

Read on to discover the 13 best things to do in Inverness without a car. 

1. Leakey’s Bookshop 

A roaring fire blazes in a wood-burning stove with a fence around it. Books line the shelves behind at Leakey's Bookshop.
Quite possibly the COOLEST bookshop I’ve seen

If there’s one thing you do in Inverness, make it a visit to Leakey’s Bookshop. Just a four-minute walk from the train station, Leakey’s is the largest second-hand bookshop in Scotland. 

It was established by Charles Leakey in 1979 and it moved into its current location in the 17th-century St Mary’s Gaelic Church in 1994.

Parts of the old church remain today such as the stained glass window and the pulpit, making the bookshop one of the prettiest in the country. 

My favourite feature is the wood-burning stove in the centre of the shop which is its only source of heat. 

The roaring fire keeps the damp off the books and gives the bookshop a cosy atmosphere. 

Location: Church St, Inverness IV1 1EY

How to visit: It’s free entry and there’s no need to book in advance. Drop in during opening hours (10 am – 5:30 pm Monday – Saturday)

Editor’s tip: Travelling to Inverness without a car? The city is reachable by public transport. Read my guide to getting to Inverness to plan your route. 

2. Culloden Battlefield 

A stark green landscape with the outline of three people walking towards a flat-roofed building. If you're wondering what to do in Inverness without a car Culloden Battlefiled is a must-visit.
The stark landscape of Culloden Battlefield

One of my favourite places to visit near Inverness is Culloden Battlefield. Located about five miles east of the city, it was the site of the last battle on British soil. 

It was where the Jacobite Rising led by Charles Stuart came to a bloody end in 1746 at the hands of the English army. Their defeat was a brutal end to Highland clan culture. The Bonnie Prince fled and spent the rest of his days in exile. 

The battlefield is reachable with the 27 bus which departs from the bus stop outside Inverness train station and heads towards Inverness Airport. 

It’s a 30-minute journey and it stops right outside the visitor centre. I paid £5.40 for a return ticket and buses run every half hour. 

The battlefield is free to explore and there are flags which mark where the two armies met. On one corner of the field, there’s a monument to the clan members who lost their lives. 

In the visitor centre, you can learn about the events that led up to the fateful battle and the devastating aftermath for the Jacobites. 

Location: Culloden Moor, Inverness IV2 5EU

How to visit: The battle site is free to explore. The visitor centre costs £16 (for an adult) and you can pay at the door. 

3. Ness Islands 

Trees surround a river with a white footbridge running across it. The Ness Islands in the middle of the River Ness.
Enjoy nature at the Ness Islands

Are you a nature lover and wondering what to do in Inverness without a car?

You don’t need to go far in Inverness to be immersed in nature. A short walk inland from the city centre, you’ll find the Ness Islands on the River Ness. 

They are a collection of small islands in the river which are joined to the banks by Victorian footbridges. You can use them to cross from one side of the river to the other. 

The islands and riverbank make up part of a wooded park with paths winding through pine trees. It’s a popular spot for cyclists, families and dog walkers. 

You can sit on the benches dotted along the river and look out for a Nessie sculpture carved from a fallen tree. 

Location: Great Glen Way, Inverness IV2 4QS

How to visit: It’s free! The park is there to wander around at your leisure. 

4. Day tour to Loch Ness 

The outline of a ruined castle tower on the edge of Loch Ness. A boat sails on the water in the background. The landscape is moody. Urquhart Castle is doable without a car if you book a tour.
Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness is a must-visit

If you’re planning what to do in Inverness without a car, you don’t have to sacrifice Loch Ness. The famous loch is eight miles away from the city but you can still see it without a car (or your own car at least!). 

I did a Loch Ness day trip tour which departed from Inverness and took me to the main points of interest along the shores of Loch Ness. It also included a boat ride on Loch Ness to Urquhart Castle. 

I recommend doing this tour if you want to see Loch Ness but don’t have the means of getting there yourself. Public transport is just too tricky for complex day trips around Inverness like this one. 

It’s a small group tour with a maximum of 16 people. My guide was very knowledgeable and told us about the history of the area, including the legend of the Loch Ness Monster. 

I always find tours are a handy way to visit hard-to-reach places if you’re visiting Scotland without a car!

Location: Check your meeting point on your ticket. 

How to visit: To get from Inverness to Loch Ness, I booked a day tour. It costs £70.67 including the ferry ticket. 

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5. Inverness Botanic Gardens

A glasshouse with a rock garden and tall cacti in different hues of grey and green are spread out. It's the cactus house at the botanic garden.
A peek inside the Cactus House in Inverness Botanic Gardens

Inverness Botanic Gardens is easily one of my favourite free things to do in Inverness and you don’t need a car. It’s just a 10-minute walk from Ness Islands. 

Open seven days a week, it’s run by a charity and although it’s free entry, donations are welcome. 

It has an outdoor garden, wildflower meadow, secret garden, koi pond, tropical house, cactus house and a cafe. 

The Secret Garden is an initiative run by the GROW Project which helps adults with special needs learn gardening skills. 

Make sure you visit the tropical house with its enormous trailing plants and water features. It has two levels to explore and I had the place to myself when I visited on a weekday morning. 

Location: Bught Ln, Inverness IV3 5SS

How to visit: It’s free entry and there’s no need to book in advance. Donations aren’t compulsory but they are welcome. 

Editor’s tip: If you’re visiting Inverness in winter or on a chilly day, the tropical house at the botanic garden is cosy and warm!

6. Go dolphin watching 

A fin of a dolphin sticks out of rippling water.
Go dolphin-watching! Photo credit: Canva.com

Why not meet the most northerly population of bottlenose dolphins in the world? Some 200 dolphins inhabit the Moray Firth and the best way to see them is with Dolphin Spirit Inverness. 

The certified ethical tour operator runs daily boat tours to popular dolphin feeding grounds, including the famous Chanonry Point Lighthouse. You can choose to sail in a catamaran or bounce over the waves in a speedboat. 

Since dolphins are wild, the operator can’t guarantee sightings but you still have a good chance of seeing them alongside other wildlife, including seals, porpoises and birds. 

If you’re coming from the city centre, your best bet is to get the bus to Seafield Road and walk about 20 minutes to Inverness Marina. Don’t enter via Scotlog Sales as it’s not suitable for pedestrians. 

Location: Stadium Rd, Inverness IV1 1FF

How to visit: Book your tickets online at Dolphin Spirit Inverness. Prices are £35-£49 for an adult. 

7. Clava Cairns 

Sun-dapped woordland frames standing stones with a cairn in the far distance and lefthand side. The Clava Cairns are an easy thing to do in Inverness without a car.
Clava Cairns are a little out of the way but they’re worth it!

A short walk from Culloden Battlefield is the Clava Cairns. This is an important site which gives you a glimpse into the lives, deaths and rituals of Neolithic communities 4,000 years ago. 

One for Outlander fans! It’s also thought to be the inspiration behind Craigh na Dun where Claire touches the standing stone and gets whisked back in time to the 1740s. 

Although it’s unlikely you’ll experience any time travel, Clava Cairns is still a sacred place which is worth a visit if you can make the walk from Culloden. 

There are standing stones of all shapes of sizes scattered across a shaded meadow. 

Among them are three enormous cairns (round stone piles) and two of them have passages running to their centre. It’s thought they were built to align with the midwinter solstice. 

To get there, you need to walk down country lanes from Culloden Battlefield (so be mindful of cars). 

I used the Walkhighlands route starting from the end of step four to step six. It’s marked as a circular trail but I just returned the way I came. 

Location: Inverness IV2 5EU

How to visit: It’s free entry and you don’t need to book in advance. 

8. Inverness Castle 

Across a river, a large bank with a small castle on top. Some towers are visible but the rest is covered in scaffolding in Inverness.
Inverness Castle, opening in 2025

High up on Castle Hill, Inverness Castle sits high on the bank overlooking the River Ness. A castle has occupied that location since 1057 but the one that stands today was built in 1836. 

Over the centuries, the castle has had many uses from courthouse to jail. Courts and tribunals still took place up until 2020. 

The castle is currently closed until 2025 while it undergoes construction work to restore it to its former glory. It’s set to open as a tourist attraction which will showcase the history and culture of the Scottish Highlands. 

You can still see the castle from the outside. The best views are from the banks of the River Ness looking up at it. I saw it when it still had scaffolding around it which did ruin the dramatic effect for me. 

Location: Castle, Inverness IV2 3EG

How to visit: It’s currently closed for refurbishments until 2025. You can still admire it from the outside. 

9. Victorian Market 

An indoor arcade with high red frames and golden fairy lights strung across the passageway. People walk along it looking at small boutique shops. The Victorian Market in Inverness.
Go souvenir shopping in the Victorian Market

One of the best things to do in Inverness city centre is the Victorian Market. This 19th-century covered shopping arcade is home to one of the best independent shop collections in the Scottish Highlands. 

It’s made up of two arcades which are joined together to make three areas, the Market Hall, Market Arcade and Queensgate Arcade.

The original building dates back to 1890 and while it’s been newly renovated, there are still many original features to spot. In the centre of the arcade is a food court where you can grab a bite to eat. 

The Victorian Market is a great place to go for souvenir shopping. There are about 30 independent shops in total and most of them have been there for generations. 

Location: Academy St, Inverness IV1 1JN

How to visit: The arcade is free entry and there’s no need to book in advance. It’s open from 8 am seven days a week. 

10. Inverness Cathedral 

A person crosses a street to a cathedral surrounded by trees. The cathedral has gothic style architecture with two towers. Inverness Cathedral, Inverness.
Stop for tea or coffee at the cafe inside Inverness Cathedral

Inverness Cathedral dedicated to St. Andrew is a short walk along the River Ness on the opposite bank to the castle. 

Recognisable by its two front towers, the Victorian cathedral was first established in 1866 and service began in 1869. It has a ring of ten bells. 

In 1971, the cathedral was included in the statutory list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest thanks to its impressive Victorian Gothic revival style. 

It’s open every day of the year and you can look inside it for a small fee. There is an onsite shop and cafe run by volunteers. 

You can find handmade and fairtrade gifts alongside tea, cakes and sandwiches made with locally sourced ingredients. 

Location: Ardross St, Inverness IV3 5NN

How to visit: The cathedral is open to visitors 365 days of the year. Entry costs £2 and you can pay by contactless card at the door. 

11. Merkinch Local Nature Reserve

The grey River Ness with trees on either side of the bank on an early spring day.
You don’t need to go far to enjoy the outdoors in Inverness. You don’t even need a car!

About half an hour on foot from Inverness City Centre is Merkinch Local Nature Reserve. It’s located between the River Ness and the Caledonian Canal on the edge of the Beauly Firth. 

The only local nature reserve in the Scottish Highlands, it’s a beautiful spot to get outdoors. The landscape is made up of tidal pools, marshland and scrubland. It’s a habitat for wading birds, owls, weasels, herons and roe deer. 

The nature reserve is accessible via towpaths, trails and well-kept boardwalks so it’s an ideal place to go for a relaxed walk during the day.

There’s a circular trail which takes you 1.25 or 2 miles around the reserve, depending on how far you want to go. It’s suitable for all difficulty levels. 

The nature reserve is about a 30-minute walk via Kessock Road or 20 minutes via the number 3 bus to Leachkin. 

Location: 40 Craigton Ave, Inverness IV3 8AZ

How to visit: It’s free entry and you can explore at your leisure. There’s no prior booking required. 

12. Inverness Museum and Art Gallery 

A row of Victorian houses line the banks of the River Ness in Inverness. Grey clouds roll across the blue sky behind.
Inverness is a walkable city

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery is located by Ness Bridge in the city centre. It’s the place to go to learn about the history and culture of the city. 

There are both temporary and permanent exhibitions that showcase Highland life. You can see artworks by local artists, photographers and craftspeople. 

The museum is on the Highland Pictish trail and it has the largest collection of Pictish carvings and artefacts in the Highlands if you’re looking for unusual things to do in Inverness. 

It’s free entry although some exhibitions and workshops might require payment. 

Location: Castle Wynd, Inverness IV2 3EB

How to visit: It’s free entry and you can visit at any time during opening hours (Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm).

13. Velocity Cafe & Bicycle Workshop 

A bicycle hangs from the ceiling ad peope enjou food and coffee at their wooden tables at the Velocity Cafe in Inverness. Wondering what to do in Inverness without a car? Eat here!
Velocity Cafe & Bicycle Workshop 

I can’t finish this roundup without mentioning my favourite place to eat in Inverness! Velocity Cafe is a short walk up a hill from the train station. I ate here after my journey up from London on the Caledonian Sleeper.

It’s a social enterprise which aims to be zero waste. The menu is vegetarian and vegan, specialising in seasonal ingredients. 

Collections are available and you’re encouraged to bring your own containers. They charge 40p per single-use item. 

If you dine in, the space is relaxed and inviting with bicycle-themed decor. It’s dog-friendly too. 

The cafe has a bicycle repair shop attached and the space is an active hub for environmental events and workshops in the area. 

Location: 1 Crown Avenue, Inverness IV2 3NF

How to visit: Drop in during opening hours (9 am to 4 pm Monday to Saturday and 10 am to 4 pm on Sunday). There’s no need to book a table but be prepared for busy weekend brunch times. 

Final thoughts on what to do in Inverness without a car 

A path lined with an intricate black metal fence and lampposts leads through the green trees. It's the park beside Ness Islands on the River Ness.
There is plenty to do in Inverness without a car!

Do you need a car in Inverness? No! 

Getting around Inverness without a car is easy to do as most of its main attractions are accessible on foot. You don’t have to worry about traffic or parking either. 

For attractions that are a little further away like Culloden, there is a regular and easy-to-use bus network which takes contactless card payments. I managed to find the right Inverness public transport easily enough with Google Maps. 

If you want to explore places like Loch Ness, I highly recommend doing a small group tour as it’s much more practical than relying on public transport – particularly if you want to visit multiple areas. 

The main challenge to visiting Inverness without a car is that you’re less flexible as you have to factor in walk times and public transport schedules. If you’re wondering how to do it, read my car-free itinerary for three days in Inverness. 


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